Sometimes, in a personal injury case, a motorist can be injured by the fault of another driver who leaves the scene of the accident and is never found. This unfortunate circumstance leaves the injured motorist wondering how he can pay his medical bills and make up for his lost wages due to missing work. Automobile insurance is mandatory in South Carolina so that every driver is required to carry it. Fortunately, every driver who has insurance also has what is called “uninsured motorist coverage” pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-150. Uninsured motorist coverage protects a driver who is injured in an auto accident due to the fault of another driver who does not have insurance coverage to compensate for the injured driver’s damages. By statute, uninsured motorist coverage also covers an injured motorist when the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident and cannot be found.
This type of incident happens more frequently than people think, including situations where the at-fault driver is driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, has bench warrants outstanding, or does not wish to be involved with the police for whatever reason. In court, the hit and run driver is referred to as a “John Doe” driver.
Seeking compensation in this situation is trickier than it may seem, and for a person injured by a John Doe driver, it is more important than ever to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. The reason is that certain criteria must be met before an injured motorist can recover from his uninsured motorist insurance policy after a John Doe accident.
First, the accident must be reported to the police within a “reasonable time.” Second, either the John Doe vehicle must have made physical contact with the injured driver’s vehicle, or someone other than the owner or operator of the vehicle must have witnessed the accident. The witness must then provide an affidavit that must meet certain criteria of its own. Finally, the injured driver must show that it was not his fault that the identity of John Doe is unknown. Sometimes, a lawyer may need to hire a private investigator to find a witness to such an accident. Time is often of the essence.
These are simply the criteria that must be met in order to file a claim under the uninsured motorist policy. After that, the normal auto accident case ensues where the injured driver must prove that John Doe was at fault and must prove the extent of his injuries and that they were caused by the accident. Medical experts and accident reconstructionists may come into play. It can be very difficult for an injured driver to make not just full recovery, but any recovery, in the context of a John Doe accident.